We captured a moment. The picture, frozen in time, was of an ungrateful preschool birthday girl receiving an apparently undesirable gift.


I felt like we dodged the embarrassment bullet when I realized the gift-giver’s mama had not witnessed our daughter’s reaction. I was thankful the giver of the gift was oblivious to the receiver’s response.


The photo was a warning shot to Tom and to me. God had given us the message that we were not raising our kids to have thankful hearts.

We thought we were modeling and living gratefulness, but what we hadn’t done was direct character training. We hadn’t even prayed about growing a thankful heart in our kids.


Osmosis and serendipity are a shot in the dark. They are not strategies. They don’t do the transforming. Direct training, intentional modeling,  and prayer are actions that move self-centered humans to the unnatural quality of unselfishness.

Here are some things to do if you want an ungrateful and entitled child:

1.       Stir the envy pot.  Envy is birthed when admiration morphs into jealousy. Jealousy becomes a bitter-root.
One way we can avoid envy is by not comparing our kids—their success or failures, to a sibling or to one of their peers. Avoid saying things like, “Look how successful Nathan is. If you spent as much time on your work as he does you will experience success too.” Instead inquire, “What do you think you could do to have greater success?”

2.       Focus on the gift not the giver.When the gift rather than the giver becomes the focus, kids are more likely to feel dissatisfied with the gift and with the person who gave it.
Instead focus on the person and the relationship, “Look what Auntie Sherri gave you. She put a lot of thought and time into giving you this gift.” Whether the child loves the gift or not isn’t the issue. Train your kids to understand people are more important than stuff.

3.       Treat their efforts to pitch in with a critical spirit.
, be sure to thank them for their participation rather than saying, “They ought to be emptying the dishwasher.” Or “You guys should have done it this way instead.”
Avoid redoing what the child does. By taking over the task or making it “better” the motivation to be a part of the family team has just been shot down. It’s good to train kids for a task but the timing of and the approach to that training is important.

4.      Whine, complain, or grumble about your job or house work. Act as if you or your child doesn’t deserve to have any discomfort or struggle. Our attitude sets the tone in the family. Instead one could say, “The cleaning needs to get done and I am so thankful I have a house to clean.”

5.       Give him everything he wants. Put the child as the center of attention. Tell the child he deserves______ and is more important, better, or cuter than______.
No, instead
let him earn some of his heart’s desires and learn to value others as he does himself.
6.    Don’t show appreciation. Expect special treatment.  Don’t encourage him to share.
reinforce the times you have seen your child respond unselfishly or demonstrated a thankful heart.
7.   Focus on your struggles and  challenges.
talk about the silver-lining in your challenges. Perhaps something you learned along the way.
8.   Place a high value attractiveness,  accomplishments, talent, academics, power, and possessions over values, faith, and desirable character traits.
focus on the internal character traits instead of the external accomplishments or appearance. Say, “I noticed you showed kindness and consideration when ou held the door for the elderly woman.”
9.   Do whatever it takes to get ahead.
instead be considerate and a team player while striving to do your best. Honor others with affirming words and actions.
10. Don’t pray about your child’s character only pray about things that will make him “happy”.
pray specifically for the traits you want to see develop. “Father, replace my child’s selfish heart with a generous heart. Give him opportunities to step outside of himself and assist another person.”
This Thanksgiving the Wildenberg gang is going to change it up. We typically go around the table and share what we are thankful for. The thoughts expressed have started to sound repetitive, fired without much thought. This year we are going to hit the thankfulness bullseye and share this way:

             “ I am thankful for (this struggle) because God is teaching me___________________.”

 Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5: 18
With love,
Lori Wildenberg
Connect with Lori if you would like her to speak at your next event or if you would like to have some parent coaching-consulting.


© LoriWildenberg. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Lori Wildenberg is a licensed parent and family educator, parent coach, and co-founder of 1Corinthians13 Parenting.com. She has written 6 books including Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home; The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connections; and her most recent book, Messy Hope: Help Your Child Overcome Anxiety, Depression, or Suicidal Ideation. Contact Lori for your next event or for parent consulting or parent training courses. Lori can also be found mentoring over at the MOMS Together Group on Facebook.

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